KENNEBUNK — Saundra Skoczen walked into the front room of Bibber Memorial Chapel on Thursday morning carrying a condolence card and wearing an orange T-shirt.

She stopped at the door to take in the elegant room’s out-of-place trappings: a mostly-empty bottle of Captain Morgan rum, a blender, two gaudy Hawaiian shirts, a string of pink flamingo lights and a bottle of Heinz 57 sauce.

She had come because she heard funeral director Doug Bibber had invited fans of singer Jimmy Buffett – known as Parrot Heads – to come share their sorrow over his recent death in a tangible way, close to home. Bibber set up a book for fans to sign and write messages in, which he plans to send to Buffett’s family. He also said he’d pass along photos or cards if people wanted to leave them.

As of Thursday, the second day the funeral home held calling hours for Buffett, more than three dozen people had signed the book, from as far away as Connecticut and Cape Cod. Many simply signed their names while others left messages that played on Buffett’s songs and Parrot Head culture, including “finz up” and “sail on, Jimmy.” One thanked Buffett for “making tough times so much easier” and another wrote, “His music made us happy!”

Doug Bibber, co-owner of Bibber Memorial Chapel in Kennebunk, set up a registry and a display of Jimmy Buffett memorabilia at his funeral home this week. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The last day to pay respects will be Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Bibber Memorial Chapel, 67 Summer St. Buffett died of skin cancer Sept. 1 at the age of 76, at his home in Sag Harbor, New York, on Long Island.

“Most people don’t understand, unless you’re a Parrot Head you don’t really understand the impact he had on our lives,” said Skoczen, 56, of Kennebunk. She apologized for crying before finishing her thought. “I think all the Parrot Heads feel the same way, like we lost someone who had a big impact on our lives.”


Bibber understands. He considers himself a Parrot Head, though he’s “not the guy wearing the coconut bra or the grass skirt” at concerts. He’s seen Buffett in concert about five times and says the singer’s music and performances “always bring me joy, no matter what else is going on.” He also admires the deep sense of community Buffett created among his fans. With songs like “Margaritaville,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” he sang about a laid-back, tropical, seaside lifestyle, but also about following dreams and living life to the fullest.

A colorful Hawaiian shirt hangs from a door at the Bibber Memorial Chapel in Kennebunk. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Bibber also understands grief, as a funeral director for 38 years.

“For Parrot Heads, it’s part of who you are. So I wanted to give them something to do with their sadness and maybe share their feelings with others and with (Buffett’s) family,” said Bibber, 58. “There have been celebrations for him in Key West, but we can’t get to those. So I wanted to do something for people here.”

Buffett did not have a home in Maine, unless you count the hearts of the many Parrot Heads here.

Bibber has hosted calling hours before for notable, well-loved people who weren’t technically having services at his funeral home, including longtime Kennebunkport summer residents Barbara and George H.W. Bush and race car driver Dale Earnhardt. Bibber’s brother and the funeral home’s co-owner, Ed Bibber, was a big fan of the driver.

To let people know about the Buffett calling hours this week, Bibber paid about $260 to place an ad in the obituary section of the Maine Sunday Telegram on Sept. 3. In typical obit style, the heading was “James William Buffett, Dec. 25, 1946 – Sept. 1, 2023” followed by the line “Celebration of Life Announcement.” In bold letters a little further down was written “Invitation for Parrotheads in Southern Maine.”


On Thursday, a selection of Buffett’s songs played softly via Spotify as the front parlor awaited grieving fans. At the funeral home’s entrance, there were several small signs on the wall directing people to other services, while one simply said “Parrotheads” with an arrow underneath.

Bibber hung one of his Hawaiian shirts on a flower stand in the hallway, topped with a Parrot Head hat, to direct people to the front room that had been decorated in Buffett’s honor. A table in front of a white marble mantle held most of the items, including books by Buffett and a photo of him, as well as a wooden sign that reads “Trespassers Will Be Offered a Shot.”

In her message to Buffett’s family in the register, or condolence book, Skoczen wrote that “Jimmy was a nautical inspiration for me. His words in most of his non-well known songs sum up life by the ocean. Sail on, Jimmy.”

Saundra Skoczen wrote this condolence message to Jimmy Buffett in a registry at Bibber Memorial Chapel in Kennebunk on Thursday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Skoczen, who works as a 911 dispatcher for the Wells Police Department, said the messages in Buffett’s music literally helped change her life. She said Buffett’s song “Someday I Will,” about chasing one’s dreams, convinced her to move from Pueblo, Colorado, to Maine 17 years ago, because she had always wanted to live near an ocean.

“I took his music to heart and sold all my stuff and packed up a U-Haul and came here without a plan,” said Skoczen. “The lyrics to that song are very inspirational, if you have a dream and you don’t know how you’re going to make it happen, you just have to believe it and go for it. “

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